Mission and History

Mission

The Aaron T. Beck Psychopathology Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania is dedicated to developing and evaluating effective treatments, such as cognitive therapy, for psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and suicide behavior. We are also a leading Center for the dissemination of cognitive therapy and other interventions in the community. Finally, our Center has an established track record for training top-notch clinical scientists in psychopathology and suicide prevention research.

History

Dr. Aaron T. Beck founded the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania. This Center provided training in cognitive therapy and offered outpatient clinical services to patients. During this time, Dr. Beck conducted many landmark clinical trials that investigated the efficacy of cognitive therapy for depression. He also developed several standardized assessment measures that are widely used in the field including the Beck Depression Inventory, Beck Hopelessness Scale, Beck Anxiety Scale and the Scale for Suicide Ideation among others. At the Center, he investigated the psychometric properties of these measures including the predictive validity for suicide. He also trained many prominent clinical researchers including Dr. John Rush and Dr. Steven Hollon.

The Aaron T. Beck Psychopathology Research Center was founded by Dr. Beck in 1998 to primarily focus on conducting research. Initially, the Center was dedicated to conducting suicide prevention research. In 2003, the Center was awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish the Center for the Prevention Suicide within the Aaron T. Beck Psychopathology Research Center. During this time, Dr. Beck and his colleague, Dr. Brown, conducted a study that demonstrated that cognitive therapy reduced the rate of repeat suicide attempts by 50% during an 18 month follow-up period among patients who recently attempted suicide. The Center for the Prevention of Suicide continues to conduct research on the efficacy of cognitive therapy for suicidal older men as well as the effectiveness of safety planning for reducing risk.

In 2004, Dr. Beck initiated a program of research on cognitive therapy for schizophrenia and psychosis. Through basic research on schizophrenia, treatment outcome research and dissemination and implementation, this program seek to combine the lessons from the recovery model for treatment with the research basis and proven the effectiveness of cognitive therapy.

Since 2007, The Aaron T. Beck Psychopathology Research Center partnered with the Department of Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation in the City of Philadelphia to disseminate cognitive therapy in community mental health settings called the Beck Initiative. The Beck Initiative uses an integrated training and consultation model that supports the adoption of cognitive therapy by the agency and its clinical staff. In 2012, the Beck Initiative expanded its training and dissemination of Cognitive Therapy to psychiatric and mental health facilities in New Jersey and Georgia.

The Center has a long history of training clinical researchers, and in 2008, Dr. Beck was given a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Postdoctoral Fellowship (NRSA) Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to continue the training program in Cognitive Therapy, Suicide Prevention, and Schizophrenia. The primary aim of this training program is to promote academic research careers for postdoctoral trainees in studying the treatment and prevention of suicide, depression, and schizophrenia. In response to a pressing need for clinical researchers to translate relevant clinical findings into community mental health services, this program will provide the next generation of investigators with an understanding of the complexities involved in clinical intervention research and the strategies to translate and disseminate such findings into public health settings.